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Corey Wootton eyes free agency, says he’ll be 100 percent by July

Chicago Bears defensive end Corey Wootttakes up his positiduring third quarter an NFL football game against St. Louis Rams Sunday

Chicago Bears defensive end Corey Wootton takes up his position during the third quarter of an NFL football game against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam)

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Updated: April 5, 2014 6:29AM



Weekend trips to Jamaica and San Diego helped Bears defensive lineman Corey Wootton escape Chicago’s winter and gave him a break from trips to Halas Hall, where his rehabilitation has been in full swing since he had hip surgery.

Come Friday, though, even those trips will end.

‘‘They kind of kick us out,’’ Wootton said.

Wootton is one of the Bears’ 20 pending free agents. And free
agency is where the versatile defensive lineman appears to be headed right now.

‘‘I’m probably going to test the market and see what’s out there,’’ Wootton told the Sun-Times on Monday. ‘‘I’m just really excited to see what’s going on. Obviously, I would like to stay with the Bears, but I don’t know how it’s looking. I guess we’ll have a better understanding when free agency happens.’’

At 26, Wootton figures to get considerable interest once the
negotiating window opens Saturday (free agents can’t sign until next Tuesday). The only thing preventing him from being highly sought-after is his health.

Wootton had surgery on his right hip in early January to correct a problem that had been nagging him for two seasons. But Wootton is on track to be ready when training camps open, proudly saying he’ll be 100 percent by July.

‘‘Before I had surgery, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this time,’’ Wootton said. ‘‘It’s been about
eight weeks since I had surgery. I feel great. I feel better walking around than I did before having
the surgery. I don’t have that pain
in my hip anymore.’’

Wootton started working on an elliptical machine and a stationary bike two weeks ago. He also performs single-leg workouts, saying his surgically repaired hip ‘‘feels pretty much equal to the strength of the other leg.’’ By May, he should be able to run and cut. By June or July, it’s back to contact, he said.

‘‘I knew at some point I could have kept this from teams; a lot of people do,’’ Wootton said. ‘‘And then, ‘Oh, my hip is bothering me.’ Then in April or May, I’m getting surgery and miss some of the
season.

‘‘But I wanted to play. I want to be ready for the season, and I will be ready for the season. That was a big priority for me. I mean, how many chances at football do a lot of people get? So the more time that I could be on the field and play, that’s all I wanted.’’

It’s that mentality that made Wootton one of the most respected and valuable players at Halas Hall.

Last season could have been a big one for Wootton. He had seven sacks in 2012 and appeared destined for more. But a spate of inju-
ries on the defensive line forced Wootton (31/2 sacks in 2013) from his natural end position to tackle.

‘‘It was something the team needed me to do,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m not the player to say no.’’

Teams definitely will appreciate and covet that.

‘‘Everyone is always asking me: ‘Are you nervous? Are you worried?’’ Wootton said. ‘‘I’m not worried about that. I’m confident in myself that I put enough tape out there to showcase what I can do that someone is going to like what I do and someone is going to appreciate the player that I am.’’

Email: ajahns@suntimes.com

Twitter: @adamjahns



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